THE REAL FOURTH OF JULY – Courage the norm, rights the motive…

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River 2010

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River
2010

I am an old-fashioned patriot.  I mean really old-fashioned, as in the time of and the paradigm of the Founding Fathers.

When people ask, lightly for them, “In what era would like to have lived?”, I always say the 1770’s in Philadelphia.  Only not as a woman.  None of this Betsy Ross business, nor even the brilliant Abigail, urging John, “Remember the women.”

No, I don’t even care which man I am, so long as I am a man, and off to the City Tavern with Toms (1 and 2 — Jefferson and Paine), John (Adams of course), Ben – who needs no surname, and George, Father of our Country in many ways beyond war.  I have a powdered wig and those dusky pantalons, and white long stockings, and uncomfortable-looking shoes with sort-of high heels and shiny buckles.  Night after night, in the rustic taverns, lit by candle or gaslight, I am saying with my buddies, “Give me Liberty, or give me death.”

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge — its upstairs room is said still to reveal splotches of true Patriots’ blood – slaughtered in sleep

I don’t have any patience with the skim-milk liberty of the 21st Century.  I bristle when the Fourth of July is termed a Freedom Fest.  In our country now, which our Founding Fathers would never recognize, the more we prate of liberty and freedom, the less we have.

America The Beautiful -- Pole Farm's Red Barn, Fields and Berries

America The Beautiful — Pole Farm’s Red Barn, Fields and Berries

This scene of barn and fields is my personal American icon.  It stands for Independence, such as farmers lived and passed on through generations.  It stands for salt-of-the-earth people, who worked with the earth, not in spite of it, to feed families and neighbors, to nourish not only bodies, but the very spirit of our land.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were farmers.  They knew the solid safety of our country rested on rural realities.  Not in slogans, let alone in the renaming of airports.

Those inalienable rights for which our Forefathers pledged and some lost their fortunes and lives, tho never their sacred honor, are trampled daily in 21st-Century Washington, by mega-corporations, in our very un-free media, in books, in trade deals, in intra-country negotiations.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s International Bill of Rights, for which she (the only woman at the United Nations) thought and fought and negotiated and declared, seems a figment of imagination.  Lost in the shuffle, and worse.  Her proudest achievement – trampled in the dust.

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ's Land's Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ’s Land’s Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Our entire country won the war of Revolution here, where I live now, in Lawrenceville (then Maidenhead) and in Trenton’s two Christmas battles, and in nearby Monmouth and in distant Yorktown, thanks to the French Fleet and heroic Lafayette.  It was also won in small towns, such as Concord and Lexinbton and on Bunker Hill in Boston, and in kitchens where wives and children melted the family pewter and silver and whatever other metals, to create bullets to defeat the tyrranical Brits.

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death - Tea Burners' Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death – Tea Burners’ Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

in weeks and months before the written Declaration, and in the interminable years thereafter, the man and woman in the streets, in the fields, and even in tea-burning ceremonies in Greenwich New Jersey and yes in Princeton, as well as in Boston, courage was the norm, and rights were the motive.. 

My Country, 'tis of Thee, Sweet Land -- in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

My Country, ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land — in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

Heroes were also our norm in those decades, and they didn’t only wear pantalons.  Resistance was as fierce among wives and daughters of our Founding Fathers, as among the men in Philadelphia.  In many cases, the women were nearer to the maurading British, gunpowder, cannonfire, destruction by many means of their homes and communities.  Their spines were as stiff as those of their mates, negotiating in various capitals, riding to country taverns with muffled horses’ hooves, standing on balconies and reading declarations of rights.

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Life.  Liberty.  The Pursuit of Happiness.  How simple they sounded when I was a child.  How they fired the soldiers in WWI and WWII, especially on D Day and beyond.  How rare those qualities seem now.

We fought for them, even more than for our flag.

I am greatly disturbed always that the Stars and Stripes became a symbol of aggression and revenge, instead of freedom and inalienable rights, from the first moments of 9/11 ever onward.

Do you ever wonder where all those flapping auto-flags came from, within hours of the dissolution of the Twin Towers?  Who alerted the flag-manufacturers?

Before 9/11, we never saw those flags except in rare personal presidential motorcades, as when JFK motored through Detroit and Illinois before his impossible election.

After 9/11, little flags were everywhere and big ones inexplicably on bridges and overpasses.  Why?  In those days, it seemed, our banner stood for vengeance, even war.

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

I happen to love the Stars and Stripes.

All year, I’ve been photographing them hither and yon, to try to recapture the pride and honor of Fourth of July as a child.

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY, where Revolutionary sentiments were pounded into the tavern tables

Hence the collection.  What does it mean to YOU?

New England — Where Thanksgiving Was Born

Golden Grove near Bennington Monument, VT.

Golden Grove near Bennington Monument, VT.

I know, I know, it was Plymouth, Mass., not anywhere near Williamstown, Mass.  And it certainly wasn’t Bennington, Vermont.

Monument to Battle of Bennington

Monument to Battle of Bennington

But it’s Thanksgiving in Princeton and there aren’t any Pilgrims, and everyone’s eating turkey when Priscilla and John and Miles and all, and of course Squanto, were tucking into lobster and deer and yes probably cranberries with maple syrup, which those clever, generous Indians brought to the feast.

Revolutionary War General, Bennington

Revolutionary War General, Bennington

It’s also beastly cold, raining and snowing at once, and nobody’s plowed anything anywhere near my new apartment, and what is going to happen to all that wet, as the mercury plunges tonight?

Venerable House, Bennington

Venerable House, Bennington

1781 — as a person of Michigan, founded in 1837 — I can barely believe house dates like this.  You see why I feel, these are the birthplaces of our nation.

Sacrifices were made here, without which we might not have a country for which to be Thankful

Sacrifices were made here, without which we might not have a country for which to be Thankful

I need non-ice upon which to drive to the Brig at dawn with Jeanette Hooban, because we need many birds, not just one, tomorrow.

And I need sun.

What a difference a month makes!

What a difference a month makes!

In Bennington a month ago, we were drenched in sun and color.  Come, stroll its streets with me.  There were hardy pioneers there, too.  And, of course, many tribes of powerful Indians.  And patriots who fought in the Battle of Bennington.  There were probably bears and certainly deer, and now there are moose — somehow I never think of moose in the time of the pilgrims.

A stroll in an entire town that is a shrine to true Liberty

A stroll in an entire town that is a shrine to true Liberty

We were in the heartland of our country, in my experience.  We stepped into different time machines in each New England town.  My heart is still there, strolling the tree-root-uplifted sidewalks of Bennington, under glowing ancient trees, examining homes of other centuries, some of which had marble walkways to their welcoming front doors.

Essence of Bennington

Essence of Bennington

Ready for Hallowe'en in New England heartland

Ready for Hallowe’en in New England heartland

Bennington Dooryard

Bennington Dooryard

Prosperity in Liberty's town

Prosperity in Liberty’s town

What History This Tree Has Witnessed!

What History This Tree Has Witnessed!

I am in love with the fences of New England

I am in love with the fences of New England

Everyone Was Welcome at the Pulled Pork Dinner, on the hem of the Monument's Park!

Everyone Was Welcome at the Pulled Pork Dinner, on the hem of the Monument’s Park!

The Gold Standard

The Gold Standard

Can't You Almost Hear The Crinkle of the Leaves?

Can’t You Almost Hear The Crinkle of the Leaves?